Franklin Laureate Database
Donald A. Norman, Ph.D.
Professor, Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Psychology, and Cognitive Science
Co-Founder and Principal
Nielsen Norman Group
Palo Alto, California
Laureate Video (16.9M)
Subject: Computer and Cognitive Science
Award: Benjamin Franklin
Citation: The 2006 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer & Cognitive Science is awarded to Donald Norman for the development of the field of user-centered design, which utilizes our understanding of how people think to develop technologies designed to be easily usable.
Donald Norman believes that everyday things need not wreak havoc in our lives. Instead, he likes things that make us smile, things that we can use gracefully the very first time. His goal is to make the interplay between science and application extremely productive, with machines designed so well we do not think about them as machines.
After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from MIT in 1957, Norman went to the University of Pennsylvania hoping to study computers. At that time the university lacked computer courses, so Norman continued his studies in electrical engineering, earning an M.S. in 1959. He shifted his focus from engineering to psychology and earned his Ph.D. in 1962. "I decided that if I couldn't study computers, I would study the human brain--the other computational device," Norman says. After four years at Harvard University's Center for Cognitive Studies, he joined the department of psychology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). When consulting on the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, Norman realized his unique combination of engineering and psychology could be combined in the study of design. His research moved to the study of aviation safety and computers. After a sabbatical in England and being frustrated doing simple tasks like working doors and lights, he shifted his focus to everyday things, leading him to write the seminal book, The Psychology of Everyday Things. In order to develop an understanding of how design principles translate into consumer products, he worked at Apple Computer, Hewlett Packard, and Cardean Learning Systems, Unext. Today, Norman is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, psychology, and cognitive science at Northwestern University and a professor emeritus at UCSD. He is also co-founder and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, where he is engaged in advising companies on products and services.
Norman is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association for Computational Machinery (ACM), and the American Psychological Association (APA). He is a founding member and fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and a charter fellow of the American Psychological Society. He has received numerous honors including the APA's Franklin V. Taylor Award and Presidential Citation and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACM Human-Computer Interaction group.